WASHINGTON—The Department of Defense (DOD) is waging war against the expanding obesity problem with the introduction of a new obesity and nutrition awareness campaign that will change nutrition standards across all branches of the U.S. military for the first time in 20 years, and encourage U.S. military, retirees and their families to make better nutritional choices and to take a more active role in their personal health.
Developed by the Military Health System, the new campaign will include the addition of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat food choices. The Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy will help update menu standards at military dining facilities; assess the nutritional environment of military facilities; and ensure healthier foods are available in dining facilities, DOD schools and other places where troops, retirees and their families purchase food on bases, such as vending machines and snack bars.
As the campaign unfolds, high-starch and sugary treats will have to step aside as an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins move onto installations.
According to the Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and TRICARE Management Activity director, nearly 30% of potential military candidates ages 17 to 24 years can’t qualify for the military because they’re overweight. The military also discharges about 1,200 entry-level candidates each year due to their inability to meet fitness and weight standards.
Military children also will be an important focus of this campaign, Woodson said, noting the importance of developing healthy habits at an early age. The campaign also will focus efforts on military retirees, who will receive enhanced obesity-related counseling and nutritional information. DOD spends about $1.4 billion a year on health-related problems related to obesity, he noted, including diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis.